Re: Re: New FTC Rules For Bloggers

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Ann Emmert Abbott

Susan – 2009-10-09 7:20 PM Brain and Cheap, you make excellent points too. High standards for writing should be applicable both on and offline.

Susan, et al., the issue is neither about writing standards nor being paid for your opinion.  It is about disclosure of any relationship between the subject and the writer of a “testimonial” for him/her/it/them/product/service/BOOK.  If the relationship includes any transfer of something “of value” from the subject to the writer, the FTC is suggesting (albeit strongly) that the writer reveal such a relationship in or with the testimonial.  Further, if the subject uses that testimonial in advertising, the disclaimer must also appear.

A book is certainly of value in and of itself.  It is a material object worth at least the cost to manufacture.  The recipient could possibly sell it at least as waste paper (difficult, but possible).

Because the FTC did NOT exempt people who mention books in their blogs or people who write book reviews in any media, the guidelines apply to them too.  At least, if the FTC considers any mention of a book that is or will be for sale as a testimonial.  It does not define “testimonial” either.

This situation is quite similar to Google reducing the Page Rank of many innocent bloggers a couple of years ago in an effort to punish the Pay Per Post bloggers.  Some blogs (mine included) never recovered from that reduction. I do not relish the thought of wasting at the least two lines of text in every review to include a disclaimer which would have the effect of raising suspicions in the mind of a reader as well a throw a more personal cast on the writing.

Here’s what the EFF had to say:

Significantly, the new rules place requirements on social media from which traditional print and television media are exempt. For instance, if a blogger publishes a book review, the rules will require her to disclose whether she received a free copy of the book from the publisher. Book reviews in print media face no such restrictions. [emphasis mine]

The EFF is urging the FTC to “rethink” this move and not as yet mounting an organized attack on the specious new guidelines. I suppose that is understandable in the context of the organization’s activities vis a vis the Patriot act and the Free Flow of Information act. Or maybe it’s just too soon.

I suggest you all read the EFF article at

Edward Champion interviewed FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection chief Richard Cleland on this matter, specifically the case of book reviewers receiving free books.  His suggestion “return the books.” Yeah, sure. “Cleland said that a disclosure was necessary when it came to an individual blogger, particularly one who is laboring for free.” AND he singled out those who link to a sales page as being especially targeted. Most always I have at least one Amazon-linked book cover image in my blog when I mention a book or books. My remuneration from Amazon?  In more than five years — zilch!